Backing down on drug tests in schools would be good – but let’s hear it officially

Are we Nats backing down from opposing the use of sniffer dogs and drug tests on students?

Alf isn’t sure.

This issue hasn’t directly involved him and he hasn’t been chatting about it with his back-bench mates. Maybe he should.

If we are backing down, Alf will be delighted.

He is uncomfortable about going out to bat for policies he disagrees with.

And he can never enthuse at pantywaist policies for dealing with drug-taking brats.

But any suggestion we might be backing down comes from secondary school principals (here) and Family First (here).

Mind you, Mrs Grumble has limited research resources and might have missed more reports from the government or select committee.

The Secondary school principals told Radio NZ yesterday they were convinced the Government would abandon its opposition to the use of sniffer dogs and drug tests on students.

They have made submissions to the Education and Science select committee on the Education Amendment Bill.

Among the bill’s measures, it would prevent schools from using dogs and carrying out drug tests on students.

As Radio NZ explained, the Ministry of Education has said schools should leave drug searches and tests to the police and the proposed changes reflect the Bill of Rights.

The principals aren’t too happy about that.

Principals have told the committee that employing private firms to conduct searches and tests deters students from bringing drugs to school and gives them a good reason to turn down drugs.

Committee chair Cam Calder says he cannot comment because the committee is still considering the bill.

However, the Secondary Principals Association says it has been told the Government will change the clauses.

Its president Patrick Walsh says principals want a clear statement about what they can do to keep schools free of drugs.

Next thing you know, Family First New Zealand is welcoming a Government backdown.

They don’t seem to be waiting to find out if there is one.

“Schools need to be supported in their fight against drug use and dealing by young people – not disempowered. This proposed policy was dangerous because it would have made it far more difficult for schools to detect and prevent drugs being used, carried and distributed in schools, and would have created an unsafe environment for the whole school community,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Hundreds of students are being caught with drugs in high schools each year according to official figures, and principals have said that enhanced detection efforts are the main reason for students being caught with drugs. Why would we take away the ability for schools to create a safe environment?”

“Ministry of Education figures also showed that there are three times more drug incidents than ones involving alcohol at primary and intermediate schools. Once again, principals acknowledge that a zero-tolerance policy is the best response.”

McCroskie said parents and schools were trying to give children a zero-tolerance message on drug use.

Alf agrees with him that their efforts should be reinforced, not undermined and weakened, by government social policy and laws.

“We need to focus on the effects on health of using drugs, links with mental illness, high use by school pupils, driving under the influence of cannabis, and the progression from lesser drugs to more dangerous drugs like P,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“Taking away a key prevention tool used by schools was a dopey approach.”

It is.

But let’s wait to see what the select committee has decided…

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